Dynamite Headdy (Switch): COMPLETED!

Even though I own three copies of this, or perhaps even more, and it had great reviews at the time, AND I like Treasure’s games, it surprises me that I’ve never played it past the first level or two. It wasn’t because it was hard (it wasn’t, but… see later), or I didn’t enjoy it, so who knows.

Only this time, while flicking through the Mega Drive Collection on my Switch for something to play, it caught my eye and before you know it (about three hours) I’d completed it. But oh my was I wrong about it being easy. That was only for the first half of the game – after that, it really ramped up the difficulty.

Shoot the baby! (Don’t shoot the baby). No really, shoot the baby.

Particular Highlights of Hell include the side scrolling shooter sections, especially the one where you have to weave up and down a fast moving corridor, the boss that chases you and definitely a cat not a bear Trouble Bruin, and the Gatekeeper. The Gatekeeper in particular, as there’s a split second when he’s vulnerable and if you’re a pixel too close or far away and don’t attack exactly correctly and run away in that tiny window of opportunity, you get hit.

So yes, I used save states. Which was justified when I found out later that the Western version (which I played) is at least twice as hard as the Japanese one.

Hardest boss ever.

But, I did really enjoy it. It looks and plays great, and has a wide variety of levels and bosses and loads of clever hardware-pushing effects that even the SNES’s Mode 7 would be impressed by.

Xeodrifter (Switch): COMPLETED!

I played and completed this before, but for 89p I couldn’t turn down buying it for the Switch and playing it again, especially since I enjoyed it so much first time around.

This time, I don’t think I found as many secret areas so didn’t get as powered up as I did before, but I didn’t really have any problems. Like I said last time, it’s not really difficult. But it is fun. A great, short, little Metroidvania game!

Mr Driller DrillLand (Switch): COMPLETED!

I have the original of this (the Switch version is a HD remaster) on the GameCube. Back then, it was only available in Japanese and as such the plot, such that it is, made no sense at all. Now, it’s in English! It has made no difference.

Some bad guy has built a drilling themed theme park under which he’s made a giant drill that he intends on using to drill to the planet’s core and destroy the world. But, since Mr Driller and his drilling obsessed friends have all come to DrillLand, they discover it and ostensibly stop him. So why did he build the theme park? Idiot.

Anyway. It plays out with each park attraction being some variation on the Mr Driller formula, and it’s really very good. And very hard. You complete the game by finishing each of the lowest difficulty modes for each attraction (and then stopping the Big Drill), but after the credits and end sequence, you get to play them in harder modes – which generally means digging further. I’ve done a couple of the hardest ones but, well, it’s very hard. As I said.

Decap Attack (Switch): COMPLETED!

One of my favourite platformers and a game I’ve probably mentioned on here before. We all know how this is the western version of Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure, but both games are excellent if different.

Didn’t have any problems on my play through. I didn’t remember all the level layouts, but did remember the route to skip one of the bosses!

Behold the Kickmen (Switch): COMPLETED!

A few years ago, while Dan Marshall was developing this originally, I was following him live-tweeting the process. So hooked on the idea was I, that the second the game came out on Steam I bought it – even though I rarely played games on a computer and, in fact, it was pretty broken on the Mac at the time.

I played it a fair bit and really enjoyed it, but found the bugs and wonky controller support (plus it wasn’t on a console) then too much of a barrier to play more. It’s probably much better now, but I just wanted a Switch port.

Then this week – there was a Switch port release!

And it is EXCELLENT. In case you’re not aware, it’s a football game written by someone purposefully getting the rules and procedures wrong. There’s silliness (like when you score a goal, the umpire kisses you) and a plot about your footballer’s dead dad and wanting to win the World Cup of Football. but the important thing is that Behold the Kickmen is so much fun to play.

Three own goals? I’ll take that.

The simple point-and-hold-and-shoot system for both doing Big Kicks and tackling makes it very accessible so you don’t need to worry about any FIFA complexity. The “wrong” rules like getting two goals if you’re further away and the round, walled pitch just make it more fun, and the crowd chants and between-match ridiculous story exposition are funny.

I’ve played it through in story mode and Won the Sport, but it’s definitely something to play again.

The Room (Switch): COMPLETED!

It isn’t clear why this game is called The Room, because there aren’t really any rooms in it. It plays like an escape room – which many puzzles, and puzzles within puzzles – but no actual rooms. Sure, there are a couple of doors but they’re free-standing portals really.

Aside from that, it was a nice little thing to play. You’re given a puzzle box with various holes and buttons and handles to try and use or open hatches and drawers, which reveal further items and puzzles workings like cogs and rotating things. As well as what you can see on the box, you also have a special lens you can look through which reveals hidden markings, that give clues to solutions or contain puzzles of their own.

573, apparently.

I played most of the game using the Switch joycon as a sort of Wii remote, which is the first game I’ve played like this (the odd minigame on Super Mario Party and aiming in Darts on 52 Worldwide Games aside) and it works a lot better than I expected. I had to recentre the pointer quite a few times, but it didn’t detract from the game in any way.

Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa Academy (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’d never have bought this but it was reduced from $sillymoney to about 80p and I’ll buy pretty much anything at that price. What I didn’t expect, however, was that I’d enjoy it.

To the untrained eye, Kotodama is yet another one of the million Japanese school visual novels that fill digital game stores. Unlike many of those, it has both an interesting story telling mechanic and puzzle game punctuates some of the encounters as you play.

Nanami is the bundle of energy who is charged with showing you the school.

The plot starts generically: you’re new in the school and you’re paired by your teacher with the girl everyone finds annoying so she can show you around. It turns out she’s also a member of the Occult Research Club in the academy, and is, along with the only other member – the president of the club – investigating the eponymous mysteries. They’re all playground rumours about ways to get good grades or ghost stories. Or are they?

As you investigate with her, you can force people to divulge secrets using your special demon power: play a match three puzzle game where you strip the people you’re talking to. Of course. Only you’re only imagining stripping them, so that’s OK, right?

Oh yeah, you strip boys too. Equal opportunities and all that.

Those expecting Hunie Pop levels of titilation are going to be sorely disappointed though, as there’s no visible nudity and there’s nothing sexy about anything in the game at all. Plus it’s a Pegi 12, so you know, it’s probably fine? Unfortunately, the puzzle game is neither as fun nor as frequent as in Hunie Pop regardless of the window dressing of either game.

The story mechanic I mentioned comes after a few chapters of the game. You suddenly, and seemingly regardless of dialogue choices chosen, reach a surprise Game Over. The credits roll, and then… a character appears and sends you back in time to the start of the game again. Only you remember what happens. You then play through again, with a slightly different outcome. Various routes in the game reset the cycle again, but eventually you can reach the True Ending which reveals some Truths about some of the characters you’ve met.

It’s a bit frustrating, but at least you can fast-forward through repeated conversations. Why you can’t skip them completely though, I don’t know.

You have a cat familiar demon thing because of course you do.

I don’t remember the normal retail price of Kotodama, but I’m pretty sure it’s over £30 and the game is definitely not worth that, but at 80p – and even say, ooh, a tenner? – it’s interesting and unusual, especially if you like visual novels that are a little more than a visual novel.

Wulverblade (Switch): COMPLETED!

Wulverblade is a great looking side-on beat ’em up, in the mould of Golden Axe or Final Fight, set in 120AD in what is now Scotland. You play one of three blue-painted Braveheart-ish Caledonians who are forcefully evicting the Romans from their lands, mostly by smacking them with swords.

Levels are dark and blood is frequent, and it’s far more violent than either of the games I likened it to, but it’s a great example of the genre. There are lots of different weapons you can pick up, plenty of attack moves, a berserker style special move powered up by attacks and mushrooms, and the ability to summon a pack of wolves once per level. There are Romans of increasing size and rage that act as bosses, and like every game of this type there’s floor chicken. There’s a lot to like.

Lots of blood.

Perhaps even more interesting than the game itself, is all the stuff that unlocks as you play. Research notes by the developers, drone flybys of ancient historical forts and standing stones, photos and history. It’s a great package.

The game is a little short, with just 8 levels (although each one is pretty large for a beat ’em up of this kind), but it’s enjoyable and certainly well polished.

Flowlines VS (Switch): COMPLETED!

I go into this game a lot more on episode 36 of the ugvm podcast, but briefly, Flowlines VS is a game where you join paired hexagonal tiles in a grid up with one another without letting the lines cross. I’ve probably not explained that very well but one look at a screenshot should clear it up:

Lines can only cross when they do so on special tiles.

There are over 400 levels, and for the most part they’re very easy. A couple caused me to try a few times, but as I explained in the podcast, the two main things that cause difficulty are the similarity of some of the colours, and the slightly erratic controls.

One level has a much, much too short time limit too, and the only way I could complete that was with an iPad stylus!

But, it was free and kept me quiet for several hours, so I can’t complain too much.

Stories Untold (Switch): COMPLETED!

Can I just say, that it’s simply unacceptable for games to not have save points – even if only a suspend-and-resume type – in this day and age? There are four chapters in Stories Untold and you’re not able to save during them, meaning 45 minutes to an hour might pass. Sure, on the Switch you can put the console to sleep, but that means you (or anyone else) can’t play another game in the meantime, and with Animal Crossing being A Big Thing right now it’s very important. I had to play much of the first and final chapters twice!

That said, Stories Untold is still a pretty good game. Each of the chapters plays differently, with the first being a text adventure (played on a Spectrum +2-alike), the second involves performing tests on what appears to be an alien, and the third is about decoding messages sent to a remote monitoring station. I won’t spoil it, but you soon realise that all three are linked in some way, and chapter 4 explains how.

Each chapter has some nice mechanics, and the stories are interesting enough, but I really struggled with the size of the text on the screen. I’ve a normal Switch and was playing handheld, but some of the screen displays have very, very small writing and are made harder to see due to CRT effects applied – slight fuzziness and flickering. There’s a button you can press to zoom in a bit, but you can’t interact at the same time so there was a lot of zooming in and out which was a pain. Perhaps on the TV it may have been less of an issue.

But, especially considering how cheap this was recently, I can recommend Stories Untold so long as you can manage with the small text and lack of save features!

Island Saver (Switch): COMPLETED!

Cynically, Island Saver is an advert for NatWest Bank, superficially dressed up as a save-the-planet first person eco shooter. You clear up and recycle rubbish, you clean the plants and animals, and you endure banking related puns as you go.

Shoehorned in is a primer on what a bank is, and you’re taught about interest, currency exchange, loans and tax collecting. And of course because this is an advert, the game is free.

Give the grey animals enough food and they fatten up, allowing you to suck all the money out of them and turn them into a nice bright colour. Also, you can make them wear hats because of course you can.

So why did I enjoy playing it so much? Certainly, it’s not a fantastic game by any means. The gameplay loop is a little tedious, as you can only hold so much and the recycle bins can also only hold so much, and to empty them you need tax credits from a specific machine, and everything takes up inventory space so you’re constantly juggling it. Then your water gun runs out of water just before the Litter Bugs – the only baddies in the game – appear and you can’t shoot them as you need water and you’ve accidentally selected the wrong inventory slot so you fire cans at them instead anyway and by the time you’ve refilled from a pond and taken them down they’ve dirtied all the plants again.

You can ride some of the animals to allow you to access new areas. Yes, it’s a Metroidvania game. Sort of.

But, it’s very low peril. There’s no real danger. There’s no real skill needed anywhere and it’s all so bright and jolly and easy that somehow, you just get sucked into it. Island Saver feels a bit like Viva Piñata only reimagined as a first person shooter. It’s not going to tax you or provide high thrills, but it’s pleasantly relaxing and inoffensive, and, actually, the banking advert side of it isn’t really that intrusive after all.

Sometimes you have to plant seeds to grow things. Sometimes you need to barter for the seeds, and make fertiliser for them too. Oh, and spoiler: despite the text in the screenshot, there is no magic money tree.

You can’t really complain for free, either.

Baobab’s Mausoleum Ep 3: Un Pato en Muertoburgo (Switch): COMPLETED!

It was a little while back I played the first two games back to back, so I was expecting the story to make little sense. But then I remembered – the story makes little sense anyway.

This final game in the series unfortunately ditches the (mostly) one continuous game style of the second game and returns to disjointed sections like the first game. To start with, the game is a bizarre full motion video title, before moving into the more “normal” 8-bit overhead view. This then passes through a 3D golf cart driving game, a sort of dungeon, a restricted view maze game, and – not far from the end – an into the screen cel shaded lightgun game (with no lightgun).

The plot doesn’t come together at any point, and although it’s fun to play it feels like a series of short minigames rather than the third chapter in an epic quest. You do find out, after the credits, who inhabitant 64 is though, and I was correct in who I thought it was.

It’s a quirky game series, and I’m glad I experienced it, but it’s terribly fragmented and unfocussed. Again, I wonder if much of that is down to the localisation. It’s difficult to tell if the strange conversational grammar is down to the translation or intentional characterisation

Picross S2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

I’ve done enough of these picross games now to know there’s very little to say about them. For the most part, for the Jupiter developed ones (like this) at least, they’re pretty much the same.

The different thing in this is “clip picross” mode, where parts of a larger puzzle are unlocked as you play through the other puzzles, and then you complete these parts to make up a larger picture. It’s a bit like in previous games but instead of each puzzle in the clip puzzle being made up from the same size puzzles, they’re all sorts of different multiple-of-five sizes.

In all, I’ve spent probably 25 hours on the game, so it’s definitely value for money, as always.

Flashback (Switch): COMPLETED!

Flashback is a great game. It always was a great game and I was slightly worried playing it might reveal it to be all rose-tinting. Luckily, once I’d turned off all the graphic-ruining “modern” filters (which are on by default), it turned out it was still excellent.

I remembered the plot, and most of the first half of the game (the bit in the jungle and the bit in the city), but I thought that completing the Death Tower gameshow section was right near the end. I’d totally forgotten there was a bit set on Earth after that, and then had no recollection at all of the alien planet part at the end. Which is odd, as I’ve completed the game several times in the past.

Obviously this is Earth.

Controls are as fiddly as they ever were, but you get used to them. I don’t know if it’s a bug or by design, but I found Conrad kept putting his gun away even when I didn’t press the “put gun away” button, which made some of the fights unnecessarily difficult. One bug from the original which is now missing is the one which lets you run through walls, which I found a bit disappointing!

So, I’m glad Flashback still stands up, and it was well worth the 89p it was on the eShop. Not that I paid even that much as I had gold coins so it was essentially free.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Switch): COMPLETED!

Another of the SEGA Ages releases, and so it’s pretty much perfect. Except, of course, Tails is in it. But I suppose they couldn’t take him out so I had to manage with him there, getting in the way. Nicking rings on the Special Stages only to lose them because he’s stupid. Getting a hit in on a boss just before Sonic does so Sonic falls through him and dies.

Tails is a bloody liability.

Thankfully, the game is great as it always was. Finished it with all the Chaos Emeralds (obtained before the end of Chemical Plant).